Tuesday

2nd Jun 2020

France, Ireland scoop top posts in EU diplomatic corps

  • Mr Vimont is currently France's ambassador to the US (Photo: SETH BROWARNIK/RED EYE PRODUCTIONS)

French career diplomat Pierre Vimont and Irish EU official David O'Sullivan are to take two of the top posts in the European External Action Service (EEAS).

EEAS chief Catherine Ashton made the highly anticipated announcement at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (25 October) after a final agreement between member states, MEPs and her own bureau on the legal architecture of the corps.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"I promised to appoint the brightest and best and in Pierre Vimont as the executive secretary general, and David O'Sullivan as chief operating officer I have done just that. Pierre is held in the highest regard by the diplomatic community and will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise on foreign policy issues. David has served in the highest capacity in the European Commission, as well as having a diplomatic background," she said in a written statement.

The communiqué added that the rest of the EEAS top posts "will be filled in the coming weeks." But EU diplomats expect two more big nominations to come out before the weekend.

The main outstanding appointments include two deputy secretary generals, five managing directors and the head of its intelligence and crisis-management unit, known as the Joint Situation Centre. The five directors will cover Africa; Asia; post-Soviet and western Balkan countries; North and South America; and human rights and UN relations. Another 80-or-so senior postings to overseas EU embassies are also in the pipeline.

German EU official Helga Schmid and Poland's Maciej Popowski, currently working as head of the European Parliament President's cabinet, are being talked about in Brussels as the two likely deputy secretary generals.

German EU official Gunnar Wiegand and the Swedish EU special representative for south Caucasus, Peter Semneby, have applied to run the post-Soviet/Balkans department. The head of Finland's intelligence services, Ilkka Salmi, is said to be a leading contender for the Joint Situation Centre post.

Ms Ashton's accent on hiring the "brightest and best" candidates had to be weighed up alongside a need to have geographic and institutional balance in the EEAS cadre.

The service must ensure backing from Berlin, Paris and London in order to have clout on the world stage. The EU's newer countries and its smaller members have clamoured for places at the top table. MEPs have also called on Ms Ashton to hire commission staff to protect the "communitarian" nature of the new institution.

Ms Ashton's Monday statement noted that the 61-year-old Mr Vimont has in the past served as chief of staff to three French foreign ministers and was French ambassador to the EU during the French presidency of the bloc in 2000. It recalled that the 57-year-old Mr O'Sullivan has previously run the European Commission's education and trade departments, was head of cabinet for former commission president Romano Prodi and was commission secretary general.

The two men will each earn at least €16,600 a month.

The Vimont job description says he will be "responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy," ensuring "the smooth functioning of the EAS," chairing meetings in Ms Ashton's absence and "maintaing relations" with EU members and countries beyond the EU. The Brussels-based post includes "extensive travel."

Mr O'Sullivan is to be responsible for "administrative and budgetary management ... strategic communications ... human and financial resources." He will also "provide strategic policy guidance" and undertake "missions" from time-to-time on Ms Ashton's behalf.

EU Commission aspires for treaty change on health

The European Commission has proposed a €9.4bn stand-alone programme dedicated to health known as EU4Health. The proposal is touted as a first step towards a possible Treaty change when it comes to health.

Exclusive

Lobbyist register to be tightened after Monsanto case

The EU's joint-transparency register lists thousands of lobbyists and what they spend or earn trying to shape EU legislation. New and clearer rules set for launch at the end of the year may lead to more realistic figures.

EU's smallest institution warned on 'threats, blackmail'

An EU institution known as the EESC has been given until the autumn to initiate a series of reforms to protect victims of harassment and whistleblowers, including against threats, blackmail and bribery attempts.

Ombudsman slams EU bank watchdog for 'revolving doors'

The European Banking Authority allowed its executive director to take a job at one of the world's largest financial lobbying groups. The move has been slammed by the European Ombusdman, who called it maladministration.

News in Brief

  1. Trump threatens to use army to crush unrest in US
  2. Trump wants Russia back in G7-type group
  3. Iran: Fears of second wave as corona numbers rise again
  4. WHO: Overuse of antibiotics to strengthen bacterial resistance
  5. Orban calls EU Commission recovery plan 'absurd'
  6. ABBA's Björn new president of authors' rights federation
  7. Malta and Libya to create anti-migrant 'units'
  8. France reopening bars and parks next week

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. Malta fiddles on migrants, as Libya burns
  2. Borrell: EU doesn't need to choose between US and China
  3. Post-Brexit and summer travel talks This WEEK
  4. State-level espionage on EU tagged as 'Very High Threat'
  5. Beethoven vs Virus: How his birthplace Bonn is coping
  6. EU's new migration pact must protect people on the move
  7. Spain takes 'giant step' on guaranteed minimum income
  8. Vestager hits back at Lufthansa bailout criticism

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us